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Washington — The Federal Aviation Administration is clearing the way for the resumption of direct flights between Lansing and Washington, D.C., in a victory for Michigan lawmakers.

The agency is granting permission to American Airlines to operate flights between the Michigan and U.S. capitals, beginning as early June 29.

The flights had been operated by Sun Country Airlines until that company pulled out of Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport in 2015.

Michigan lawmakers said it was a top priority to find a replacement for Sun Country to fly from Lansing to D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport, where gate access is closely guarded by the FAA because of space constraints.

“It was critical that Lansing keep this direct route, which benefits Michigan State University and FRIB, provides better access for local businesses to our nation’s capital, and supports Port Lansing’s international trade facilities,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said in a statement after the announcement was made.

FRIB is the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, agreed, saying “direct service between Michigan’s capital and the nation’s capital is vital for the economic strength of the entire Mid-Michigan region.”

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, added “direct access between these destinations will provide many benefits to our local communities throughout Mid-Michigan, and I look forward to service being restored as soon as possible.”

Local leaders in Lansing also celebrated the flight approvals. Tim Daman, president of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the FAA’s announcement “is a historic day for the Greater Lansing region.”

“Securing Washington, D.C. service represents a ‘win-win-win’ opportunity that will help create and retain jobs in Michigan, grow our regional economy and ensure Lansing’s airport remains a cornerstone of our region’s business development strategies,” he said.

Daman said the FAA has also approved new American Air flights between Lansing and Chicago, which he said “is the hidden jewel in this package.

“Now, our region will have more service to one of the world’s most important hubs, and the rare opportunity to bring another legacy carrier, American Airlines into our market,” Daman said.

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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